If you’re a homeowner in New Jersey, you can save up to hundreds of dollars over the summer on air conditioning if you do a few simple things to get ready now before the heat hits. Call EcoMen Solar at 732-SOLAR-NJ.

In the hot sticky days of summer when the air conditioning is running day and night, an average family in New Jersey can pay $400 or more every month for electricity.

Going solar can cut that expense down to nearly zero. And with the federal tax credit still available at its highest level and strong state incentives, now is a good time to install solar panels on your home in New Jersey.

Even if you go solar, it always makes sense to use energy more efficiently, especially during the summer. And whether you’ve gone solar already or not, a few simple tips can help you save serious amounts of energy during the hot weather that’s surely coming our way soon.

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Make Sure Your Air Conditioner Is Ready in Advance

First, make sure that your air conditioner is working properly and is ready for long periods of use when the temperatures rise. You’ll want to do this before summer comes, since if you need repairs or a new AC unit, you’ll want time to shop around and schedule any necessary service.

Take a quick look at your equipment, whether window units or central air run off a thermostat. If anything is obviously wrong, fix it yourself if you can (eg, change the air filters) or get it looked at by a professional. Once you’re confident that all your equipment is in order, then give it a quick test, as recommended by this heating and AC company:

Step 1: Lower the temperature on your thermostat to the desired level and turn the system “on” at the thermostat.

Step 2: Go outside and listen to make sure that the fan in the condenser is running and that it doesn’t sound irregular. The air coming out of the top of the unit should feel warm, as warm air is being removed from your home by the system.

Step 3: Let the system run for 10 – 15 minutes or more, until you can feel the indoor temperature cooling off in all parts of the home.

“Summerize” Your Home

Next, just as you would “winterize” your home in the fall by putting up storm doors and windows, so this spring you can prepare your home for summer in advance so you’re ready when the heat comes. These eight tips will cut your need for air conditioning and save you money on power.

1. Get blinds on your windows and keep them closed during the day.

Especially if you have windows that face south, keeping out the sun will keep your home from trapping heat and behaving like a greenhouse. Up to 30% of unwanted heat in your home comes from sun shining through your windows, according to Family Handyman.

Believe it or not, something as simple as installing good drapes or blinds and closing them during the day can keep your house a full 20 degrees cooler. Thick blackout curtains are the most effective at keeping out summer heat and can pay for themselves in a single season.

2. Use doors well to keep heat out and pull cool air in.

If your HVAC system has zones, run the AC in only one zone and close off any zones or rooms you’re not using. If you have window units it’s even easier to just run them in rooms you’re using and close the doors to keep the cool air in. When it cools down at night, open doors to let cool air move around your house. And if it’s really cool at night, open the windows too.

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3. Let fans do more of the work.

With central air, it’s tempting to rely on AC for all your cooling. But you can save money by giving your AC some help from fans, which use much less electricity. With creative use of fans, you can turn your thermostat up to a higher temperature and still feel cool. A low-tech solution that works surprisingly well if you’re directly in front of a fan is to position the fan behind a bowl of ice cubes. This basically gives you a little blast of cool air and can cut your need for AC.

4. Swap out your bedding.

Basic things can keep you cooler at night and help you sleep more easily without having to crank the AC at full blast. Take those flannel sheets off and replace them with sheets made from a light cotton fabric. Down comforters and blankets made of fleece or wool should also go into storage when summer comes. Replace them with a cotton bed spread that will breathe more easily.

5. Set your ceiling fans to run counter-clockwise.

It’s surprising how few people know that most ceiling fans have both a winter setting and a summer setting. For summer, a switch will allow you to change the direction of the fan to counter-clockwise, to create a wind-chill breeze effect that will make you feel much cooler.

6. Keep your body cooler.

When it gets hot, most people don’t think enough about how to reduce their need for AC by keeping their own body cooler. This goes beyond swapping out heavy blue jeans for shorts and turtlenecks for T shirts. Staying well hydrated and doing it with cold drinks instead of hot ones can keep you cooler. So, for your morning caffeine fix, try iced coffee instead of the hot stuff. Or, consider cutting down on caffeine altogether in the hottest weather, since caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea and sodas tend to dehydrate you. Hot and sticky weather might be just the excuse you’ve been looking for to drink fewer soft drinks and try more water or juice.

7. Change out incandescent lightbulbs.

Maybe you never got around to switching out your old incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescents when those were all the rage. Well, it’s just as well, since CFLs turned out to be a bit of a dim bulb, so to speak, not living up to their promises for long-life or attractive light. Fortunately, today’s LED bulbs are much better. These days, LEDs only cost a little more than CFLs. And LEDs create almost no heat, unlike incandescents, which waste 90% of the energy they use in heat. Install LEDs now and you’ll be cooler this summer, while also saving money on electricity and bulb replacements in the future.

8. Grill out more.

Who doesn’t love a summer BBQ? Of course it’s a bit of work to fire up the charcoal. Even if you have a gas grill, you still need to carry your ingredients and tools out to the backyard — and then carry everything back inside again when you’re done. But holding a cookout at least once a week is worth the extra effort not only because it’s fun and gives you a chance to use your fancy grill and BBQ tools, but also because cooking outside in the yard instead of inside in the kitchen will keep your house cooler.

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Use Less AC, but Use It Guilt Free

You’ll always save money if you can stay cool while using less AC. And you’ll also be prepared in case your AC breaks down during a heat wave but the repair guys are too busy fixing other people’s AC to get to you for a couple days.

Once you get smarter about staying cool over the summer, you can save $100 or more every month on your electric bill. And if you want to cut out the rest of your bill, and take some of the guilt out of running the AC no matter how hot it gets on those sticky afternoons in July and August, then consider going solar. With some of the best solar incentives in the country, New Jersey makes solar very affordable. And with the federal tax credit still at its full 30% level for now, this might be your year to finally get the solar panels you’ve been wanting.

Just contact EcoMen Solar for a free quote and we’ll let you know if your house qualifies for solar panels. If it does, then we’ll give you a customized analysis of how much you can save starting the very first month you go solar.

— Joe Aurilia, Jr, EcoMen Solar

Solar Solutions for New Jersey, New York, and Eastern Pennsylvania